NEW YORK – Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who died after being kidnapped in Pakistan, was known as a quietly tenacious reporter with a passion for journalism and a relentless curiosity.
Pearl was "the kind of a reporter who always had another phone call to make," said Lewis Cuyler, his one-time editor at The Berkshire Eagle, in Pittsfield, Mass. He called Pearl a "brilliant, gifted reporter."
Nearly a month after his kidnapping by Islamic extremists, the U.S. State Department confirmed Thursday that Pearl had died. The Journal said it believed Pearl was killed by his captors.
Based in Bombay, India, for the past year as the Journal's bureau chief for South Asia, the 38-year-old Pearl was on assignment in Pakistan as part of the newspaper's coverage of the war on terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.
"Up until a few hours ago, we were confident that Danny would return safely, for we believe that no human being could be capable of harming such a gentle soul," Pearl's parents and two sisters said in a statement from their home in California.
Born on Oct. 10, 1963, in Princeton, N.J., Pearl worked for newspapers in western Massachusetts after graduating from Stanford University in 1985.
He joined The Wall Street Journal in 1990. He spent three years in Atlanta; moved to Washington, D.C., in 1993, where he covered transportation; then moved to London in 1996 and to Paris in February 1998.
It was there that he met his wife, Mariane, a French free-lance journalist. His wife, who is seven months pregnant, lived and worked with Pearl in Pakistan.
Cuyler, who retired in 1995 as the Eagle's business editor, recalled Pearl as "quiet, a very good listener. All of a sudden he'd have a zinger question — there wasn't any bombast, like some reporters use."
Pearl was 24 when he joined the Eagle, a 31,000-circulation daily. "He had written some good stories, and showed a lot of promise, and certainly made good on that promise," Cuyler said.
Then single, Pearl played fiddle, bass and keyboard in a folk-rock band. But his journalistic ambitions were clear.
"He did have aspirations to cover a larger territory than Berkshire County in Massachusetts. He admired the Journal, The New York Times, the big newspapers, but there was never, 'I have to go here,"' Cuyler said.
Dusty Bahlman, who worked with Pearl at the Eagle, told The Boston Globe that Pearl was unflappable.
"He would not give up on a story after just a couple of sources; he would hit every angle. That's what I find very telling; he went off with people that he knew not at all or only slightly to meet with a source."
In North Adams, Mass., which Pearl once covered for the North Adams Transcript, the flags will be flown at half-staff for the next few days, Mayor John Barrett III said.
"A mayor's not supposed to like the reporter who covers him, but he had no hidden agenda," Barrett said. "He wanted to do a good job as a reporter. He wanted to write the good story.
"It's just a terrible, terrible thing that's happened to a guy who probably would have done a good job in telling (his abductors') story," Barrett said.
Pearl's case, the latest in a long chain of kidnappings of journalists by radical groups, was the first in which communication between captors and the outside world was conducted entirely via e-mail.
The Internet messages, from the previously unknown National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, accused Pearl of being a spy — first for the CIA, then for Israel's Mossad — and threatened to kill him if its demands were not met. One demand was for Pakistani terror suspects held by U.S. authorities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be returned to Pakistan for trial.
The e-mails — sent to several news organizations but not the Journal — included pictures of Pearl in shackles, with a pistol pointed to his head.
U.S. and Israeli officials and spokesmen for Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, denied the spy allegations. In return e-mails, the paper told Pearl's abductors that neither it nor Pearl could influence U.S. government actions.
Pearl's wife appealed for his freedom and even offered to take his place in captivity despite being pregnant. She told interviewers she and Pearl often worked as a team and she would have gone with him to the Jan. 23 rendezvous had she not been feeling sick.
Friends and co-workers dismissed as absurd the idea that he would be involved in espionage.